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Dec. 10 Opening Statements: Steve Buyer (R-Ind.)

  • More Transcripts From the Hearings

  • By Federal News Service
    Thursday, December 10, 1998

    REP. STEVE BUYER (R-IN): I thank the chairman. I couldn't help but, as I try to be a good listener to each of my colleagues' statements -- I wonder at times if we come from the same world. You know, there are people out all across America every day that help define the nation's character, and they exercise common-sense virtues, whether it's honesty, integrity, promise-keeping, loyalty, respect, accountability, they pursue excellence, they exercise self-discipline. There is honor in a hard day's work. There's duty to country. Those are things that we take very seriously.

    So those are things that the founders also took seriously. Yet every time I reflect upon the wisdom of the founding fathers, I think their wisdom was truly amazing. They pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to escape the tyranny of a king. They understood the nature of the human heart struggles between good and evil.

    So the founders created a system of checks and balances and accountability. If corruption invaded the political system, a means was available to address it. The founders felt impeachment was so important it was included in six different places in the Constitution. The founders set the standard for impeachment of the president and other civil officers as treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors.

    The House of Representatives must use this standard in circumstances and facts of the president's conduct to determine if the occupant of the Oval Office is fit to continue holding the highest executive office of this great country.

    I concur with the premise that the crimes alleged against the president may not directly involve the derelict exercise of executive powers except the issues of possible misuse of executive privilege. The alleged crimes plainly do involve the derelict violation of (the) president's executive duties. The committee received testimony on American and English history and legal scholarship on precedents which made plain the personal misconduct, violations of trust and other charges of a more private nature can be impeachable offenses.

    The question before the committee is, does perjury to conceal private misconduct and other wrongful conduct, to thwart and impede the justice in a civil rights case in federal court and efforts to obstruct justice in a criminal proceeding and perjury before a grand jury rise to the level of an impeachable offense?

    When the president had the opportunity to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, he lied. Before the court in the Jones deposition, the president lied. Before the court in the Jones case, in answers to discovery interrogatories, the president lied. Before the grand jury, the president lied. Before his cabinet and senior aides, the president lied. Before the Judiciary Committee of Congress, in the answers to requests for admissions, the president lied. Before the American people, the president lied.

    What are the consequences if this committee leaves a known perjurer in the Oval Office? First, perjury and obstruction of justice drive a stake in the heart of the rule of law. When the Constitution was ratified, it was christened as the grand American experiment. America stood alone in being governed by the rule of law as opposed to the rule of kings, tyrants, czars, monarchs, emperors, chiefs, sheiks, lords, barons and lords, and even nobles.

    To our founders' credit, they created a republic based on the rule of law rather than a nation being based on the whims of man. The American legacy is that we have become the beacon of liberty to nations around the world who seek systems of government just like ours. We have an obligation to preserve the heritage of the rule of law now and for future generations.

    The president's lawyers give us a fantasy defense. The president's defenders would have us believe that the president's misconduct was only private and therefore not impeachable. If the president's verbal engineering prevails, then an evasive, incomplete, misleading and even maddening statement is not a lie. No one is ever really alone in the cosmos. "Is" is not a state of being. A person performing a sex act is having sexual relations, but the person receiving the sexual favor is not having sex. And a cover story is not a concocted rendition of an event with the willful intent to mislead others by lies, but instead a cover story is a simple, harmless revision of a historical event.

    This is neither believable, reasonable, rational nor acceptable. The president's defense is completely misguided in its interpretations, parsing and hair-splitting of words.

    C.S. Lewis called this technique, quote, "verbicide, the murder of a word," end quote.

    When plainspoken English language is twisted into the vague and ambiguous, society is devoid of trust. It undermines our social interactions, commerce, indeed, the rule of law and government itself. I believe in civility and self-evident truths as a statement of stable social order under the rule of law. If the president's view of non- truth prevails, we set a double standard. The presidential perjurers, in the future, will have no consequences to face. Everybody else could go to jail.

    We will also set a double standard, with regard to the behavior of the chief executive and as commander-in-chief. Conduct that would strip an admiral or general of his position, land a sergeant in prison or deprive an administrative nominee of a Cabinet post, is condoned for the president. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines will be bound by the high ethical code which they should be. But our president as commander-in-chief, who has the power to send them into harm's way, can conform his conduct to a lower standard.

    I disagree. Leadership is by example and setting the higher standard. Retired Admiral Edney, who teaches ethics at the Naval Academy, came before this committee and testified, quote, "Dual standards and less accountability at the top will undermine the trust and confidence so essential to good order and discipline in the military."

    I believe the Office of the President is one which has reposed a special trust of the American people, by virtue of having gained a majority of the American people's electoral vote. If the president can lie repeatedly without remorse with regard to his personal conduct, can the president be trusted by the American people, by Congress, by foreign governments, to conduct the official business of the United States?

    The trust given the president by the people, I believe, has been broken and betrayed. The president is no longer entitled to the benefit of the doubt as to his actions and his judgments, such as the use of military force, and his foreign travel on behalf of the people of the United States. He is now second-guessed by everyone in coffee shops all across this country.

    If this committee cannot bring itself to impeach a perjurious president, the bar will be raised for future circumstances that the

    House and this committee might face. Our children and grandchildren will face presidents who seek to flout the rule of law in a more ambitious manner, because of the precedents set through inaction. I will defend the Constitution and serve as a protector of our national heritage and help define our nation's character. I will not cave in and permit our nation to be ruled by polls, emotion, or a distortion of words by verbicide.

    An ancient Greek philosopher stated, "A man's character is his fate." I am saddened and disappointed that the character of President Clinton brings us to an impeachment vote for only the third time in over 200 years. We are debating articles of impeachment today, not because of any partisan spite or overzealous prosecutor, but because of the truth about the president's own actions. As difficult and wrenching as this matter is, this committee must do its constitutional duty, and report articles of impeachment to the full House of Representatives, for the sake of our Constitution, for the sake of our children and for the sake of our country.

    I yield back the remaining balance of my time.

    REP. HYDE: I thank the gentleman. And the gentlelady from California, Ms. Waters.


    Copyright © 1998 by Federal News Service, Inc. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's original duties. Transcripts of other events may be found at the Federal News Service Web site, located at

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